In Cameroon, there is a core belief that the government is, and should be, the number one generator of jobs. This creates many challenges for the almost non-existent private sector, which currently makes up less than 6 percent of the working population. The Nkafu Policy Institute, an Atlas Network partner in Cameroon, is committed to bringing the economic decision making down to a local level as a way to break-up monopolies and encourage competition and free enterprise with its Small Business and Entrepreneurship Center (SBEC). With the stated purpose of assisting small businesses transition from the informal to the formal sector, the SBEC has become a network of small business owners and entrepreneurs in a country that ranked 163 of 190 in the World Bank’s 2018 Ease of Doing Business Report.
“This view of the role of government, which translates into the central government directly involved in and controlling most sectors of the economy has left little room for the private sector,” said Denis Foretia, president of the Nkafu Policy Institute. “…The centralization of all major economic decisions in the hands of a few government officials has unfortunately propagated the evolution of large monopolies with dire consequences to the social and economic life of average Cameroonians. Breaking up these monopolies to encourage competition and bringing economic decision-making to the local level are key elements to promoting free enterprise in the country.”
The SBEC’s roundtable events have become a place where small business owners and entrepreneurs, in both the formal and informal sectors of the country, can come together to engage in training programs and discussions where they can learn from both the program itself and each other. The Nkafu Policy Institute continues to create new training opportunities and expand its reach to different areas of Cameroon.
“In a country where small business owners struggle to obtain credible information on business opportunities and trainings, the business roundtables have become a wonderful opportunity for knowledge sharing,” continued Foretia. “Many small business owners have opened up [about] the challenges they faced and are continuing to face and the strategies they employed to survive and thrive. These personal stories and experiences have been the most rewarding as the SBEC Network continues to build membership. Due to the significant grassroots interest in these open discussions and trainings, the SBEC program is expanding from the capital city of Yaoundé to organize sessions in other regions. Later this month and next month we will organize sessions in Mbalmayo, Ntui, Bamenda and Batibo.”
Nkafu Policy Institute is also publishing a video series featuring Cameroonian entrepreneurs and the challenges they navigate as small business owners in the country.
The SBEC additionally organizes a variety of professional services geared towards assisting small business to thrive. These services include a small team of law firms, business consultants, and accountants at reduced fees.
“There is absolutely no doubt that a free enterprise system is the best way to promote upward social mobility and the SBEC program is a key pillar in our drive to make this a reality in Cameroon,” Foretia concluded.
Nkafu Policy Institute received an Atlas Network grant to support its Small Business and Entrepreneurship Center project.